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My laptop has a nomodeset problem; check the link for more info. Basically, I would need to add nomodeset in grub in order to boot any linux distro.

If I want to use a distro, I'd need to install it, boot it, press e on boot menu, add nomodeset, and when it boots, I fix the grub menu forever and update it.

Today I'm looking to try a new Debian distro, but I don't want to install it; my laptop is already dual-booted, I don't want to triple-boot it.

I don't like VirtualBox or VMware; I'm not a fan of virtualization. Besides, the distro that I'm trying doesn't play well on virtual machines.

All I want to do is to boot it from live CD but the problem is that when you boot it from live CD, you aren't presented with a grub menu and you can't press e to edit it, so there's no way for me to add nomodeset. Without that option, I'll never be able to see the screen.

How do I edit the grub boot menu when booting from a live CD?

3 Answers 3

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First answering your specific question,

How do I edit the grub boot menu when booting from a live CD?

I know you want to find a simple solution for your simple question, but I'm afraid that there is no easy solution for you, because almost all live cds are boot with isolinux, i.e., not grub, so there is no way you can edit grub when booting from the live cd.

You can re-create the live cd to boot with grub if you want. Ref: Booting CD with grub

Or your can learn how to use isolinux to put in that nomodeset. It's quite simple.

Now answering the question of "Edit boot menu when booting from a live CD"

All live CDs are using isolinux to boot.

Using isolinux to change boot options (e.g., to put in that nomodeset) is quite simple:

  1. press TAB at the live CD boot up screen
  2. change boot options (e.g., appended nomodeset options at the kernel prompt)
  3. press enter to boot the live cd with the new (nomodeset) option
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  • I know this is an old thread, but googling this issue brought me here. For me, the solution was pressing DEL as soon as the live CD began to boot (before seeing any distro splash screen). That worked for an Ubuntu Live CD (18.04). For Kubuntu 18.04, almost the same worked, I just had to press F1 instead of DEL.
    – LGenzelis
    Mar 11, 2019 at 15:21
  • Thanks for the feedback @LGenzelis, pressing "DEL" sounds BIOS/EFI related. what happens when you press it or F1?
    – xpt
    Mar 11, 2019 at 19:12
  • I get a list of (K)Ubuntu boot options. I'm not sure if I understood your question correctly.
    – LGenzelis
    Mar 12, 2019 at 15:37
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For about every live cd I've ever used, you can press "tab" (also try "space" or one of the "F" keys) and click "e" to edit the boot options before you fire it up. Yes, this even works with isolinux. Experiment with the timing, but I find it works when the text announcing the bootloader is on screen but before it starts unpacking. Hit "tab" (or other), then wait for a couple of seconds, then hit "e" and edit away.

There is, to my knowledge, no easy way to make this permanent with a cd. It can be done if you know the deeper mysteries of rolling your own Live CD. Or, at least configuration and rerolling thereof. Debian makes it easier but it's still a learning curve for people new to Linux.

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If the live CD doesn't give you an opportunity to, I don't think you can just edit it. However, if you know the grub line used to boot the live cd, you can:

  1. Put the disk in
  2. Load GRUB from the harddrive
  3. Drop to the GRUB command shell
  4. Set the root device as the CD-ROM
  5. Use the same kernel options as the live cd, plus the nomodeset option to boot the live system.

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